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Water Resources Research

Experimental study of incipient motion in mixed-size sediment

Authors

  • Peter R. Wilcock,

  • John B. Southard


Abstract

Transport rates of five sediments were measured in a laboratory flume. Three of these sediments had the same mean size, the same size distribution shape, and different values of grain size distribution standard deviation. The critical shear stress for incipient motion of the individual size fractions within these sediments was estimated as that shear stress that produced a small dimensionless transport rate. The sorting of the sediment mixture had little effect on the critical shear stress of individual fractions, once the median size (D50) of the mixture and a fraction's relative size (Di/D50) are accounted for. Our data, combined with previously published data, show a remarkably consistent relation between the critical shear stress of individual fractions and the fraction's relative grain size, despite a broad variation in the available data of mixture sorting, grain size distribution shape, mean grain size, and grain shape. All fractions in a size mixture begin moving at close to the same value of bed shear stress during steady state transport conditions. This result is apparently true for transport systems where the transport rates of individual fractions are determined solely by the flow and bed sediment (recirculating systems), as well as for systems where the fractional transport rates are imposed on the system (feed systems). This equivalence in initial-motion results is important because natural transporting systems often show attributes of both types of behavior in an unknown combination.

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